Tag Archives: Ethics

Proposed Post-Birth Abortion Ban Could Shut Down Iraq War

Democrats in the House of Representatives have proposed a bill that would legislatively create a twenty-year period of “Post-Birth Fetal Development,” during which abortion would be completely illegal. Rep. Roberta Goldwaithe, the bill’s primary sponsor, thinks this is an idea whose time has come. “Neurologists have established that the human brain isn’t completely developed through adolescence. This explains why many young people engage in irrational and dangerous behaviors; drinking and driving, date rape, signing up for the Marines… every parent has his or her own horror story. It’s time for those of us who believe in the sanctity of human life to put our principles before our politics. We must protect all human life, including those who have not yet fully developed into independent creatures.”

Republicans have concerns that the “Post-Birth Fetal Development Pro-Life Abortion Ban Act” is a legislative Trojan horse with potential consequences reaching far beyond the abortion clinic, perhaps as far as Iraq, but Rep. Goldwaithe dismisses these accusations. “A Republican who would vote against the Pro-Life Abortion Ban Act is clearly a closest pro-choice, anti-life satanist, and I know that voters will be smart enough to recognize that come election day.” Goldwaithe admits, however, that the new law would affect the war in Iraq:

It goes without saying that being placed in a war zone would threaten fetal life, but this is a secondary concern. President Bush recently pledged, ‘I believe human life is a sacred gift from our Creator. I worry about a culture that devalues life, and believe as your President I have an important obligation to foster and encourage respect for life in America and throughout the world.’

The President expressed these sentiments to explain why he vetoed a bill that would have allowed federal funds for stem cell research. Embryos used for stem cell research consist of less than 200 cells. The vast majority will never develop into anything but freezer burn, and will eventually be destroyed. On the other hand, fetuses protected by the Post-Birth Act can be as much as six feet tall, and contain well over a hundred trillion cells. With proper care, all have the potential to become fully developed human beings. It’s inconceivable, pardon the phrase, that the President would refuse to protect the sanctity of life merely because it would interfere with military plans.

White House spokesman Tony Snow refused to comment directly on the proposed law, but did say that the administration would continue to support the right of a fetus to bear arms.

Cheney’s Empty Argument On Iraq

Using meaningless language is a standard tool of politics, brought to high art by the present administration. Dick Cheney has added a new gloss on the old game, repeating an old argument about Iraq that has lost all meaning.

Here’s the way Cheney put it recent speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee 2007 Policy Conference:

… when members [of congress] speak not of victory but of time limits, deadlines or other arbitrary measures, they’re telling the enemy simply to watch the clock and wait us out.

This argument was used by Bush for the first few years of the war in Iraq to avoid setting a time table for withdrawing troops. Agree with it or not, the argument meant something:

The situation is us versus the bad guys. “We” are the coalition and the fledgling democratic government in Iraq. Insurgency groups dedicated to destroying any US supported government in Iraq are the bad guys. If we tell the bad guys when we plan to pull our troops out of Iraq, the bad guys will hang back, save resources until our troops are gone, then come out of hiding to destroy the Iraqi government.

This argument allowed the Bushies to govern in their preferred way: completely ad hoc, no goals to meet, therefore no way to determine failure.

Whatever value this description of the war once may have had, it clearly doesn’t represent what’s going on in Iraq today. Even the Pentagon admits there is an internecine civil war in Iraq, fought among multiple groups with diverse interests. The Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (a non-governmental group of former intelligence specialists) provide a clear analysis in their recent memo Denouement on Iraq: First Stop the Bleeding:

The vast majority of the violence in Iraq is sectarian in nature and involves a multifaceted civil war mostly pitting Sunnis against Shias. However, the violence also entails secular Sunnis fighting Sunni extremists linked to Al Qaeda and secular Shias battling Shia extremists…. in other words, a rabid dog fight with our troops in between. The only thing the various factions share is unflinching opposition to US occupation. But the notion that there is a monolithic group of “insurgents” or “enemy” falls far wide of the mark.

The “we can’t set a time-table” argument falls apart under these conditions. There is no “them,” holding back waiting for us to leave. The various coalitions are in full-out battle against the provisional Iraqi government and against each other. We have met the enemy, and he is…. well, everybody.

We are used to Cheney’s lies, but this is something different and worth attending to. It’s a concrete example of the administration using empty phrases to shore up support for a misconceived and unpopular war. “Support the troops!” “Democrats want to cut and run!;” smoke and mirror language used for effect rather than meaning. Sweeping aside empty language can raise the quality of the public debate about the war; and a debate based upon facts is precisely what the administration is trying to avoid.

Anna Nicole Smith is still successfully dead; VP Cheney still unsuccessfully alive

It appears that Anna Nicole Smith, like any great artist, is more popular dead than alive — at least as measured by the continuing stream of stories about her in papers, magazines and news shows. The media’s mock self-reflection involved reaches new levels. There are stories about her, then stories about the media’s fascination with her, then meta-stories about the media’s tendency to report on it’s own reporting of stories about the death of Anna Nicole Smith. All are gratuitous, including my discussion here, which raises the bar of Anna Nicole Smith recursive reporting up yet another notch.

Still, it seems right, somehow, that her fame continues unabated after her death. Anna Nicole Smith, the person, had little to do with Anna Nicole Smith, the celebrity, and the former, if anything, tended to get in the way of the latter. Now, relieved of the burden of actual life, the flame of her celebrity can burn as pure and as hot as the sun.

Smith may still be dead, but vice-president Dick Cheney is very much alive. Cheney was completely unharmed when a bomb, apparently targeted at him by the Taliban, exploded near the compound he inhabited during his visit to Afghanistan. Twenty-three other people died in the attack, thereby strengthening the VP’s resolve to stay in the fight.

According to Cheney, the Arab bad guys plan on continuing to kill Americans, figuring that we’ll eventually tire of it and bring our troops home. But Mr. Cheney isn’t going to let us fall into that trap. Let ’em kill as many Americans as they can, we’ve got plenty more. I’m not making this up, really. During his flight back from Afghanistan, Cheney was asked why he says nasty things about Speaker Pelosi and Representitive Murtha. Cheney replied:

They [the al Qaeda] know they can’t beat us in a stand-up fight. But they do believe — and I think there’s evidence to support this — that they can, in fact, force us to change our policy if they just kill enough Americans, create enough havoc out there. And they cite Beirut in 1983; Mogadishu, 1993, kill Americans, America changes its policy and withdraws. And Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri believe this. They talk about it. It’s not a mystery.

And my point was that if we follow what I believe Speaker Pelosi really wants to do in terms of withdraw, that that would validate the al Qaeda strategy.

And so, absent a real plan, we stay in Iraq for brinkmanship. They think they can kill and wound enough soldiers for us to back down? We’ll show ’em.

I wish someone would tell Mr. Cheney: Adamantly refusing to consider loss of life in making military decisions is not good policy; and playing chicken with people willing to blow themselves up to kill us is not an effective strategy.

Schlesinger v. Rove — a comparison of Presidential Special Assistants

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., historian, author and special assistant to President John F. Kennedy died February 28, 2007.
Presidential special assistants fill a unique role in an administration. Presidents choose individuals they believe have the experience, abilities and wisdom necessary to provide guidance during difficult times. A special assistant must share the presidents’ values and his vision for America.

The following is a short comparison of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., special assistant to President John F. Kennedy, with Karl Rove, special assistant to President George W. Bush. I hope that viewing this comparison is as enlightening for you as writing it was for me.

 

 

Schlesinger

Rove

Education

Harvard University, 1938-42

Left following Pearl Harbor, without completing his PHD

University of Utah 1969-71

University of MD — completed half a semester, 1971

George Mason University, 1973-75

University of Texas at Austin, 1977

Never received his bachelor’s degree

War
Experience

Volunteered for combat during WWII, turned down due to bad eyesight; spent 1942-45 in the
Office of War Information, and the Office of Strategic Services, precursor to the CIA.

Maintained a student deferment during his semester and a half of college in Utah and MD; lost his deferment just prior to the end of the draft.

Youthful
fame

Won the Pulitzer Prize at 29 for The Age of Jackson, a history of Andrew Jackson’s presidency.

Stole stationary from the offices of a democratic candidate for Illinois state treasurer, used them to produce handbills advertising “free beer, free food, girls and a good time for nothing” at the opening of the candidate’s
new campaign headquarters, and distributed the handbills at rock
concerts and homeless shelters.

Significant
Mentor

Reinhold Niebuhr, Christian theologian, proponent of the use of Christian values as a basis for politics and diplomacy, and one of the architects of modern
“just war” theory.

Donald Segretti, a Nixon political operative. Rove worked under Sergretti during Nixon’s campaign, when Segretti obtained letterhead stationary from Democratic presidential candidate Ed Muskie and used it to produce a bogus letter falsely claiming that Democratic Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson had fathered an illegitimate child with a 17 year old woman. Segretti was later convicted as a Watergate conspirator.

What he said about his President

“… urbane, objective, analytical, controlled, contained, masterful, a man of perspective…”

“Huge amounts of charisma, swagger, cowboy boots, flight jacket, wonderful smile, just charisma – you know, wow!

Other
significant achievements

Wrote twenty books, won two Pulitzer prizes, three national book awards, the Four Freedoms Award and the Paul Peck Award. Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1961.

Served as Special Assistant for Latin America affairs and speech writer for Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, 1961-64.

Ran George W. Bush’s presidential campaign, including
during the S. Carolina primary, when a whisper campaign falsely claiming that opposing candidate John McCain was mentally unstable, had been a stoolie
during the time he spent in a Vietnamese POW camp, and had fathered a black, illegitimate child.

Rove, a political operative, served Bush as assistant to
the president, deputy chief of staff, and senior adviser.

Rove outdoes his mentor Segretti, giving testimony in the investigation of the Valerie Plame affair, and is not even indicted

Quotation

“If we are to survive, we must have ideas, vision, and courage. These things are rarely produced by committees. Everything that matters in our intellectual
and moral life begins with an individual confronting his own mind and conscience in a room by himself.”

“As people do better, they start voting like Republicans – unless they have too much education and vote Democratic, which proves there can be too much of a good thing.”

An historical description of PTSD

Playboy Magazine’s site contains an excellent, recent article on the Bush administration’s efforts to minimize the existence and human costs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) left untreated in troops returning from Iraq.

Mental health problems tend to be easy to ignore. There are no physical scars, or missing limbs. The public prefers to believe troops come home healthy and heroic, and the government is happy to encourage those beliefs. As a result, the long term costs of untreated PTSD are played down in both the press and in the federal budget.

War is a Racket, a short work written by former General Major Smedley Butler in 1935, contains a powerful description of Butler’s observation of the emotional damage caused by war :

Boys with a normal viewpoint were taken out of the fields and offices and factories and classrooms and put into the ranks. There they were remolded; they were made over; they were made to “about face”; to regard murder as the order of the day. They were put shoulder to shoulder and, through mass psychology, they were entirely changed. We used them for a couple of years and trained them to think nothing at all of killing or of being killed.

Then, suddenly, we discharged them and told them to make another “about face”! This time they had to do their own readjustment, sans mass psychology, sans officers’ aid and advice and sans nation-wide propaganda. We didn’t need them any more. So we scattered them about without any “three-minute” or “Liberty Loan” speeches or parades. Many, too many, of these fine young boys are eventually destroyed, mentally, because they could not make that final “about face” alone.

In the government hospital in Marion, Indiana, 1,800 of these boys are in pens! Five hundred of them in a barracks with steel bars and wires all around outside the buildings and on the porches. These already have been mentally destroyed. These boys don’t even look like human beings. Oh, the looks on their faces! Physically, they are in good shape; mentally, they are gone.

Smedley ButlerSmedley Butler served in the Spanish American War, the Boxer Rebellion, the first World War and in US military actions in Honduras, Haiti and Veracruz, Mexico. He was awarded two Congressional Medals of Honor. After leaving military service he became a strong critic of the US administration and it’s willingness to use war to benefit industry.